Thomas Kinkade: Born-Again Christian Artist Convicted of Fraud June 18, 2009

Thomas Kinkade: Born-Again Christian Artist Convicted of Fraud

Thomas Kinkade (a.k.a. “Painter of Light”) is a born-again Christian artist whose prints appear everywhere. He runs the Thomas Kinkade Co.

He just lost a big court case because of shady business dealings — he now owes $2,100,000 — but notice how he manipulated the other side (Kinkade Signature Gallery owners):

At a week-long presentation for prospective Kinkade Signature Gallery owners, company executives “said they would support us as partners in spreading the light,” Spinello said at the time of the arbitration award. “They said their business was blessed.”

In its February 2006 decision, the arbitration panel said Kinkade and other company officials used terms like “partner,” “trust,” “Christian” and “God” to create “a certain religious environment designed to instill a special relationship of trust” with the couple.

What the company didn’t tell them, said their attorney, was that they would have to sell Kinkade’s works at minimum retail prices while the artist undercut them with discount sales, some of which he made himself on cable television.

Kinkade cheated the very companies who were selling his work so he could make more money. It’s greed at its finest.

Just because someone is a Christian, it doesn’t mean they’re moral. Why are people getting duped by words like “Christian” and “God”? It’s as if hearing that a business associate is Christian means you don’t need to think critically about what you’re doing or look any further into this business you’re about to give your life savings to.

(And why would you give your life saving to sell this tripe…? And who buys this?!)

Case in point: President Bush was another born-again Christian and look at all the crimes he committed.

I’m not saying all born-again Christians are bad. That’s not true. I’m saying that a religious label doesn’t tell us very much at all about a person’s true character.

The victims in this case should have realized that instead of getting blinded by faith. At least they’ll get their money back.

(Thanks to Greta Christina for the link!)

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  • Seth C.


    His “work” is all over the office at the church I attended a lot in high school. It’s sad to hear that he duped the company using “Christanese” and a religious status.

  • I once had a guy work on my house and he noticed problems with the way the windows were installed — shortcuts had been used. He asked about the contractor who had installed them and asked, “Was it someone from your church?” And indeed it was! I was surprised that it was a regular enough pattern to be easily recognizable to a professional.

    I agree that shouldn’t indict all born-again Christians, but it does point to the fact that “born-again” can be a quick brand name used to take advantage of people, and that any group of people are just that — people, some good and some bad and most in between.

  • Matto the Hun

    I don’t understand. He has the BIBLE, this makes him more moral and better than any of us.

    I think it’s hilarious. On one hand I feel bad for those gallery owners. On the other hand they let themselves be had. I’m glad they realized they were being had and took that dirtbag Kinkade to task. However, this is the danger of religion and magical thinking. It makes it so much easier to dupe people, just hit their religious buttons and they’ll trust you far more than a person saying the same with w/o the god-language. They let it happen to themselves.

    I am glad that they were smart enough to wake up and put a stop to it. I never liked that Kinkade guy as an artist.

  • No one of consequence

    Kinkade is going to pay an additional 1/5? That would be the Christian thing to do.
    Numbers 5:7 He owes 2.5 million.

  • stogoe

    How does undercutting your distributors make you more profit? I just don’t understand. It seems like his business plan was tailored specifically to ruin the plaintiffs and not to, you know, run a profitable enterprise.

  • Alycia

    I thought they said that they wanted to lower the stock so Kincaide would be able to buy it up outright for cheaper? I may have misunderstood…

    What I do know is that his “paintings” are crap. They’re only technically skillful, and marginally so at that. There is a reason why critics pan his work…it’s hotel art.

  • I really need to create a religion. Fuck this working 9 to 5 bullshit — just my wife won’t let me. 🙁

  • This is very common in the Mormon church, too… with people using their church status as a selling point of trust. My mother used to do this and I remember hearing all the time that “he’s a member of the church” even the few times she got bit by a greedy business person.

  • chancelikely

    All other things being equal, I avoid businesses that advertise that they are “Christian” or display a Jesus fish prominently in their advertising. Same thing with any product with “Quality” in the name – if you have to tell me outright, you don’t have much confidence in word of mouth or repeat sales.

  • I agree with chancelikely…any time a company has to use their faith to make sales, i run the other direction! Usually it means they have a poor reputation, and have to use religion to bolster their credibility.

  • littlejohn

    Does this surprise anyone? Remember Jim and Tammy Bakker?
    Also, have you seen that crap he paints? He owes a refund to everybody who ever purchased his assembly-line “art.”

  • sc0tt

    I heard a radio ad the other day for a Christian Yellow Pages directory and the announcers were talking about how much you can trust everybody in there and how anybody who doesn’t advertise in there isn’t contributing to the community… nauseating.

    There are even competing “yellow page” companies all after the same market; this particular one was exclusively for the San Francisco area

    On a positive note they don’t seem to be very successful – for example there are only three dentists listed for a region of 36 million people.

  • sc0tt

    Sorry… 7 million in the Bay Area, 36 million in California.

  • Reginald Selkirk

    atimetorend: “He asked about the contractor who had installed them and asked, “Was it someone from your church?” And indeed it was!

    They relied on their church ties to get the job, not their expertise and reputation. Same thing for businesses that use “American” in their company name and fly a lot of flags. They are trying to draw in customers based on something other than quality of products and services.

  • I never could stand that cloying garbage Kincade put out, and I’m not at all surprised to discover he’s a fraud as well as a peddler of muck. Frankly when I see one of those “Christian business” signs/ads I go the other way. I don’t trust them for a minute. Not only have they likely contributed in some way to eradicate my rights but there is a noticeable pattern of them expecting to get away with crappy goods/service just because they’re Christian. It’s like they expect people to be duped into thinking they’re great people because of that “Christian business” sign.

  • John Larberg

    People can be so desperate to be able to trust someone that they end up putting too much emphasis on the one thing they think they can trust. A person’s credibility and trustworthiness should come from more than just their belief in gods and pagan rituals.

  • Bishop John Shelby Sprog said something interseting about the “born again” people. He said that individual don’t need to be born again because that would mean they have returned to childhood. What he said was that people should become mature. We don’t need a return to childhood, we need to grow up and move forward. I agree. Instead of reverting back to a new (immature) beginning, we need to advance our understanding. If “they” did this, perhaps we wouldn’t have to deal with x-tian immaturity.


  • Woody Tanaka

    Your headline is incorrect on two counts (technical points, but still important):
    First, Kinkade, himself, was dismissed from the suit, so the award was against his company, not him.

    Second, since this wasn’t a criminal case, but an arbitration, he was not “convicted” of fraud but merely found liable under a fraud theory.

    Also, it is interesting to me to see so many people so emotional in condemning these painting – “hotel art,” “crap,” “muck,” etc.

    While there is no good case to be made that his work is of high critical value, the people who purchase his work are not looking for challenging, critically praise-worthy art, but are looking for pleasing, reassuring images, which he provides in a technically competant fashion.

    I wonder if these reactions stem from his religious views or whether there be similar vitriol if the subject of the story were some other similar artist, such as Wyland or Anne Geddes, who produces work of equally low critical value but who are also highly popular.

  • Dallas

    Woody Tanaka has set the record straight, and I appreciate that. I like to know all the facts before forming an opinion.

    I, for one, am sure that my negative opinion of Kincade’s work is to some extent colored by my feelings about his born-againitude. (If he were an atheist, I still wouldn’t like his stuff, but I might not be as vocal about it.) You nailed it, Woody! ;^)

    One interesting fact I’ll throw out is that my cousin, a graphic artist with his own design firm, graduated from the Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, CA, which is the same art school Kincade attended. Although Kincade is arguably the school’s most well-known graduate, none of the alumni letters my cousin receives from the school ever mention him.

  • ursulamajor

    I used to work with a woman who was building a new home. She went with a “christian” contractor without checking them out. Why should she? God did it already. Well, halfway through, after they had brought the wrong windows for the mountain chalet house, they split. She and her husband probably spent an additional $50,000 or more to clean up the mess.

  • Seth C.

    The whole “born-again” phrase is based on a story that was made up by the author(s) of the Gospel According to John where Nicodemus approaches Jesus at night and inquires into the divine status of Jesus. (John 3)

    Jesus replies in a Greek double entendre that can be understood to mean “born from above” or “born again.” Of course, Nicodemus takes to mean “born again.”

    Modern scholarship has shown that Jesus spoke a dialect of Aramaic, not Greek, thus the double entendre gives away the legend aspect of the story.

    Of course, most “born-again” Christians will not care to know or never know this because it, “God-forbid,” shake their “faith.”

  • Mark

    Hemant wrote:

    Case in point: President Bush was another born-again Christian and look at all the crimes he committed.

    Hemant? Say what? I thought you were more educated and intelligent than that? A crime is not defined as anything with which you disagree. But just for the fun of it, what crime do you claim that President George W Bush committed? Please don’t waste our time with vague rumors, unfounded accusations and childish tantrums. Cite the specific law that you claim the President of the United States violated? This should be good for a laugh.

    By the way, have you ever read public law 107-40? It was passed into law by your federal legislature.

  • Heidi

    His art makes acceptable check backgrounds if you can get the version without the scriptures. I had some 15+ years ago. I’ve moved on to Looney Tunes now, though. 😛

  • Bill


    Ronald Reagan pushed for, and got Congress to enact, The Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, which counts as a treaty. The executive branch is, of course, bound by US treaties. The convention explicitly states that there are absolutely no extraordinary instances where it is allowable for a public official to authorize “any act by which severe pain or suffering, whether physical or mental, is intentionally inflicted on a person for such purposes as obtaining from him or a third person information or a confession…”

    The United States executed Japanese after WWII for waterboarding American POWs. Lending full faith and credence to those legal proceedings means that waterboarding counts as torture, therefore executive approval of waterboarding at the very least is a treaty violation by the executive branch and, as such, a crime.

    And, yes, all those other times that US governmental officials wiped their asses with treaties — those are crimes, too.

  • Miko


    Warrantless wiretapping, going to war in Iraq without a Congressional declaration (with the declaration, it’d still be a bad idea and a crime against humanity, but it would have been legal under U.S. law at least), torture, politically motivated firing of attorneys, members of his staff refusing to respond to subpoenas, releasing classified information about CIA agent Valarie Plame (that one is treason by the way, and while I personally don’t support the death penalty, I do have to acknowledge that it is mandated by law in this case), the Troubled Asset Relief Program, Tenth Amendment violations regarding medical marijuana dispensaries in California, Ninth Amendment violations regarding the IDX medical procedure, indefinite internment and military tribunals against noncombatants including U.S. citizens and violations of habeus corpus. And I could easily keep going. Some of those are from Congress (but Bush still signed them), some are from his advisors (but respondeat superior), and some are his directly. But suggesting that Bush isn’t a criminal is laughable.

    As an interesting exercise, consider how many of the above crimes have also been committed by Bush’s successor, Obama. Ah, change.

  • justanotherjones

    I wonder if these reactions stem from his religious views or whether there be similar vitriol if the subject of the story were some other similar artist, such as Wyland or Anne Geddes, who produces work of equally low critical value but who are also highly popular.

    I dislike Wyland’s art as much, maybe even more than I dislike Kinkade’s. I’m neutral on Geddes.

    I dislike Kinkade, the man, for his shady business practices and for what I view as hypocrisy and an abuse of the trust people put in him as a Christian.

    First, Kinkade, himself, was dismissed from the suit, so the award was against his company, not him.

    So? Wasn’t he his company? Especially in the beginning when these contracts with galleries were being built up?

  • Alycia

    Nope, his religious views do not color my opinion of the art he produces. And for the record, I think Wyland’s and Geddes’ pieces are mediocre , too. Just because their work is popular doesn’t mean it doesn’t lack triviality. It’s kitch. They’ve found a niche and they’ve pandered to it.

    Technically, all these people are skilled. But I’d say they are better business people than artists. More power to them for being successful in selling their work, but don’t count on their pieces being discussed in an art critique class 50 years from now.

  • stogoe

    The only value that Anne Geddes’ work could possibly have is as illustrations for the menu at Hemant’s All-Natural Roasted Baby Barbecue Shack.

  • Polly

    (And why would you give your life saving to sell this tripe…? And who buys this?!)


    As I type I am sitting right in front of a Kincade painting on the wall complete with its own wall mounted lighting! I am also getting my head filled with “blood of Jesus this and that”

    Naive Xians who love kitch buy Kincade’s stuff. The same person who bought the painting has no less than a dozen angel figurines and probably dozens of crosses adorning the tiny 1-bedroom condo.
    And NO, I’m not at home.

  • A Christian

    I’m a Christian and do not agree with Kinkade’s “business” practices. However, I must say – I prominantly display my faith – my slogan even has the word God in it. If anyone wants to “run away” from my business because of it, they are welcome to – I’d rather not work with them anyway. Please do take your business elsewhere – I’m not trying to be snarky, but I’m not going to hide my belief’s for anyone.

  • Tio

    Well, then, “A Christian”, you will lose out on an opportunity to work with someone ethical and principled – me. I am tired of the hyposcrisy of those who declare they won’t hide their own beliefs but demand that others do.

    I go the other way because too many times have businesses prominently promoting all sorts of Xian logos exploited those who are afraid and gullible – to shear the sheep of the Flock as it were. Kinkade is no exception.

    Once invited to the immodest home of a local “eminent” Xian family, we were treated to two scenes that seemed sordid. The first was the eagerness with which they simultaneously derided laziness of the immigrants who picked their crops (thus enabling them to buy this huge house), and bragged about exploiting them.

    The second had to do with the prominently-displayed Kinkade landscape that was given the most visible location in the large living room, almost as if it were some idol – and it was rather treated as such. We were quickly directed to it, being told (in tones meant to impress us – “it’s a Thomas Kinkade heirloom painting“) that it cost over $5,000.

    It was, of course, a piece of crap – not a painting at all, but a mass-produced lithograph of an uninteresting painting that some Kinkade lackey was paid minimally to dab on little bits of light-tinted highlights in paint-by-numbers fashion.

    The worst experience of Xian fraud in my experience occured when the ownership of an apartment building I lived in changed. The new owners replaced my friendly, proficient manager with someone else in the building who was in their church – ostensibly because the old manager had served years in prison (for a violent offense). However, the replacement was out on parole for child rape – but he had been “forgiven”.

    The new manager was incapable, nasty – and watched all our kids in the swimming pool through his binoculars. He returned to prison after his girlfriend (and her 11 year old daughter) moved in with him – violating his parole.

  • givemeabreak

    Agree with “A Christian”. As a Christian believer, I want to say, before commenting on Kinkade – Bishop Spong??? Oh really – give me a massive break here.

    The man knows nothing about scripture – the Word of God. I’ll take the Word of a Holy God over Bishop Spong’s hell-bent rantings any day.

    As to Kinkade – he doesn’t seem to be aware that once you self-identify as a believer, your activities are going to be put under a microscope. I never really liked his artwork that much – my mother loves it. He over-charges for what the product actually is, was my very first impression of him years ago. But, you know, to each his own.

    Then I came across a series of “Cape Lighit” books that he co-authored with someone else. Sort of interesting, and I have read through most of the series (library books, being incredibly thrifty) – but the entire series betrays a REALLY surface level Christianity, that doesn’t go very deep with the Lord, and indicates that neither of the co-authors know a lot of scripture. The clincher for me was a passage where one of the characters in one of the books reflects that the “author” of the Lord’ prayer maybe had some things in the prayer a little “backward”. In other words – neither author of this book, Kinkade or the other writer – knew that the author of the Lord’s Prayer was the Lord Jesus Himself. How could ANY born-again believer, from ANY church, not know that? Seriously… how? I knew that when I was 8 years old. And to add insult to injury – think about this – whoever edited the book didn’t know it either.

    That’s how I got to this website. I googled: Is Thomas Kinkade a Christian? Because I am left really wondering after reading this ostensibly Christian-based book series. I hope he is. But I think, based on this court case and my impression of his book series, he has some repenting to do. And the Lord is faithful and just to forgive us our sins if we repent of our sins, according to the scripture he needs to better acquaint himself with.

  • Tina

    Dallas, technically, Thom did not graduate from Art Center. I attended a few classes with Thom there in 1980 as well as hung out with him for a time. He dropped out. But Art Center does recognize a student as an “Alumni” if they have attended at least 3 trimesters, which Thom did…and I beg to differ, in my opinion, one of Art Center’s most “arguably” famous graduates was Chris Bangel, an automotive major who in time became the head designer for BMW worldwide.

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